on a shopping spree in the third quarter, shrugging off the threat of higher taxes next year. businesses, on the other hand, pulled back sharply on their spending, the first cutback in business investment in more than a year. and that has some economists concerned. >> business spending in particular was sort of alarmingly soft. and, that's where we're starting to see the effects of the fiscal cliff and the uncertainty associated with it. >> reporter: it also suggests that the economy will slow in the final quarter of this year, as companies continue to postpone purchases of everything from software to new machinery. >> i think in the current quarter we could see growth that's a little bit softer, a little bit below 2%, primarily because it looks like business investment could be even weaker. and, this is based on orders for capital equipment. >> reporter: as for how the u.s. economy will fare in the first part of next year, that's really anyone's guess. estimates for q1 g.d.p. range from negative to positive numbers, and that uncertainty is due to the fiscal cliff. suzanne pratt, "n.b.r.